Links for Friday | 21st May 2015

Every Friday I’m posting links to things I’ve read this week that I think you might find interesting too,


  • In recent months, I’ve been pushed back to realy re-examine how we use the word ‘Gospel’ and what it means to share the gospel. Here Scot McKnight alludes to a couple of ways in which we might be sharing a narrower gospel than the biblical text proclaims;

  • An old prof of mine who I am forever indebted to for discovering the beautiful intersections of theology, mental health care and chaplaincy, John Swinton writes about his nominating of Jean vanier founder of L’arche communities

  • Krish kandiahresponds convincingly to theologian Wayne grudem’s defense of Christian gun ownership. Although, I’m increasingly convinced as I have these conversations that there is a cultural impasse between our cultures (US and UK) despite our common(ish) language.

  • Over the last couple of years the importance of understanding God as triune has sky-rocketted. This strange (and, by name not explicitly referenced) doctrine is often relegated to the complicated and mysterious (and therefore expendible) in most daily Christian practice. I thought Greg Boyd wrote an excellently clear piece explaining why this matters. Most significantly is that for God to be love, there needs to be more than a single person at play!


I am long disonnected from the regular rhythm of US colleges, but seemingly people are graduating right about now, I thought these 3 tips by Jeff Goins were great!

1)Don’t worry about what to do. Worry about who you are and who you are becoming. Focus on continued growth and learning, and what you’re meant to do will become clear over time.
2) Stop looking for the perfect job and start creating it. The best way to do what you love is to build the perfect job for yourself. Start a small business, if even as a hobby, so you’re never completely on someone else to earn a living.
3) Instead of chasing your dream, serve someone else’s first. This will save you years of pain and accelerate your growth in ways you can’t imagine. And it will humble you.

How do defend against thinking just like the age an culture which surrounds you? Read this quote from CS Lewis biography by Alister McGrath this week (HT: Tides and Turning) which made me want to dig into some old tomes;

Lewis argues that a familiarity with the literature of the past provides readers with a standpoint which gives them critical distance from their own era. Thus, it allows them to see ‘the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.’ The reading of old books enables us to avoid becoming passive captives of the Spirit of the Age by keeping ‘the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds’ (Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis – A Life, p. 187).


  • I’ve been looking at a couple of desk ideas recently, and have been playing with the idea of a ‘standing desk’ which has become popular over the last decade or so. I’m just not so sure I’d want to stand all the time.

  • This could be a pretty neat and elegant solution! HT: Tools and Toys

  • Tools and Toys also published a great review of apple’s new macbook. From this review it seems like a great buy for 90% of non-power mac users.

  • I use a calendar app pretty regularly, not because Im esepcially timetabled, but for some sense of knowing where my time is going and has gone. I even put events in my calendar after they have passed so I can remember what I did. I’ve been using Fantastical for both mac and iOs and really enjoyed its funcationality. Especially its natural language parsing1

  • Finally, and again, from Tools and Toys (Yes, I do read other blogs), some great suggestions for music to work alongside.

I agree that mostly instrumental works best for me, I get to share a spotify account and enjoy these tunes recently as I work;

  1. “Instead of laboring your way through several fields to add an entry, you can type something like “Ritchie conference call at 3pm on Tuesday,” and it’ll fill in all the fields, including a default duration of one hour and a recognition that by “Tuesday” you must mean “next Tuesday.” – Lean Crew

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“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass away; God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Those who have God find they lack nothing; God alone suffices.” Teresa of Avila (1515-82)

Teresa of Avila (1515-82)


Journeying through ‘With’ by Skye Jethani | Part 2

I’m working through an overview of ‘With” (US | UK | Anywhere else by Skye Jethani, read the previous posts here (Part 1)

The next few chapters in the book relate to deepening the understanding of the postures towards God that Skye introduces in the 1st.

The first posture is;

Life under God

Life under God is a posture that comes close to fatalism, the idea that what will be, will be, apart from that our adherence to God’s will induces his blessing, and conversely, our lack of blessedness is because of our displeasing God.

Skye explains how this view emerges from people attempting to explain the causes for evil or lack of fortune. It can be presented as some form of *primitive” view of God, such as ancient cultures explaining why crops fail, but Skye explains how in a modern society we still can hold the understanding that our business is failling, our children are sick, our country is collapsing all because of our lack of adherence to God’s rules.
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“Oh Death where is your sting”, Oh, there it is!

Just over a week ago a close friend of ours died far too suddenly. We cried out in prayer, and were sure God joined us in our desire for his life to be prolonged, but yet, he died.

Honestly victorious phrases like “Death where is your sting, grave where is your victory”1 seem like callous belittling of the very real pain experienced in the loss of life. Is my reaction to those phrases a worrying litmus test for the extent of my ‘eternal perspective’? I’ve wondered.

Phrases more like ‘struck with grief’ and ‘stung by unexpected loss’, seem like more honest reflections on the experience of losing a friend so soon and unexpectedly.

I do believe, I should affirm, that our dear friend has now, finally, known the deep and loving embrace of the One his heart always longed for. But for those of us left behind there is an acute sense that the unique way in which our friend mediated the presence of God to us is lost for now. We are resigned to bitter-sweet memories of his joy, his rootedness, his loving embrace.

I’m sure in the midst of this, there is a strain that has plagued all of humanity over time, the making of good things into ultimate things. People, who mediate God’s presence to us in their own unique way, in their God-image, are not in themselves God of course. But God was revealed to us in human form, in Jesus, not in some mysterious spiritual cloud. And so, the Christian faith does release us to know the divine in the flesh, of primarily Christ himself, but also through those who are now included in His new humanity, other believers like our friend.

So, I feel the sting, and I’m increasingly inclined to think that is not a bad thing, or as I had feared, a litmus test for my ‘heavenly mindededness’. My wife, who embodies far more emotional fluency than I, has felt the Lord assure her that the pain we feel is the ‘not-rightness’ of death. We know we were never made to feel such pain, experience such loss, that in fact to be together, to be known and to know, in the presence of God is what we are made for.

In fact, death has lost its sting but only because of the resurrection, only because we can in some way recognise that we are not the only ones to recognise the abhorrence of death and pain. God has led the way in calling these things enemies of his intended life and flourishing for us. He has moved towards us in Jesus, with his ‘love as strong as death’ 2, naming death as, in fact, the problem.

Strange that He shouldn’t have said, ‘life stronger than death’, but ‘love’. Death is an absence of love, an absence of the life-affirming, worth-giving substance which holds this fragile universe of ours together. And the loss of love is the sting we feel today. Our friend’s loss helps us experience the pang of a creation not yet consummated by its creator, our unhappy life within this ‘middle time’, the ‘space in between’, the ‘now and the not yet’, we are longing for the return of the King.

I don’t want to present this time as somehow a place where we just hold on to some future-hope of God coming one day, with our role as just to hold on and hope. Eternal life, that is life in the fullness of God, does begin now, our connection to the life, community and overflow of love which is the trinity does begin now. But there is a day to come, one which we are pulling into the present in all our kingdom abiding, activity and longing, which is still not fully here, and on days like today it stings.

The ‘Why?’ question regarding pain, suffering and loss does not seem to be one God is offering an answer for in this time. Maybe because it would release us to rely blithely on a principle rather than a person, God Himself. The most consoling thing though, is that God’s story is one that doesn’t belittle death. He doesn’t try to belittle its magnitude and name it as so many of our culturally numb phrases; ‘slipped away’, or ‘moved on’. No, God calls it his primary enemy, the most significant foe of humanity, and at the end of our canon of scripture, our heart aches, not finding vocalisation in the normal sense but groans along with God Himself crying out, “Come, Lord Jesus”.3

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:55 – “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 
  2. Song of Songs 8:6 – Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death.. 
  3. Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” 

Links for Friday | 15th May 2015

Every Friday I’m posting links to things I’ve read this week that I think you might find interesting too,


In the next week I’ll hopefully post my full review of the Tom Bihn Bag I wrote about a few weeks back, but for now feel free to check out some pictures of our current trip to India here, my photoblog is http://LIAMBYRN.ES.
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Ascension Day 2015

Today the church celebrate the ascension of Christ, I was sent this great sonnet by Malcolm Guite and his great explanation for the significance of the ascension which seems deeply under appreciated within the evaneglical community;
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Journeying through ‘With’ by Skye Jethani | Part 1

I’m re-reading Skye Jethani’s book “With” (US | UK | Anywhere else) over the next few weeks, and I like it so much I thought I’d blog through some thoughts as I do. Not quite as in depth as a review, but more a place to repeat and carry forward some ideas that it peaks for me.

In Chapter 1, Skye contends that the disillusionment that is often experienced by those seeking to follow Jesus is not due to a lack of sincerity or not trying hard enough, but that our posture towards God foundationally misled.
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“All our life is a festival. Since we are persuaded that God is present everywhere on all sides, we praise God as we till the ground, we sing hymns as we sail the sea, we feel God’s inspiration… Read More

Clement of Alexandria


Links for (Almost) Friday (Again) | 9th May 2015

Every Friday I’m posting links to things I’ve read this week that I think you might find interesting too, in a second week in a row, I missed friday!, but in my defence I was moving through some time zones! –

UK Elections

  • The turns in the recent election in the UK was unprecedented. Especially in Scotland where my vote (in absentia) was cast. It is hard to take a national pulse living so far away, but the rhetoric of UK politics seems less and less inclusive and more tribal, a worry trajectory in my opinion. Giles Fraser, made some emphatic comments in his piece in the Guardian, and I was fascinated by the following quote, as I’ve often considered the secular approach to government as quasi-religious.

The anthropologist Mukulika Banerjee suggests a fascinating answer: elections are like religious rituals, often devoid of rational purpose or efficacy for the individual participant, but full of symbolic meaning. They are the nearest thing the secular has to the sacred, presenting a moment of empowerment.
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Steve Schallert INTERVIEW | Part Two

Earlier this week I posted part one of the interview with Steve Schallert about his album “Songs of Sorrow | Songs of Hope”, be sure to read that, and my earlier review before picking up here.

LIAM: It’s clear your reflections which get expressed in your training role also found a voice in the songs, what were the cross overs and what makes song writing different to teaching/preaching/training?

STEVE:“There is indeed a lot of crossover, but there certainly are huge differences between the mediums. Songwriting (particularly when writing songs that are intended to be sung in community for the purpose of spiritual and political formation) just taps into a different part of the mind. There is much more freedom in songwriting than in teaching because I find it to be less academic… there is just less script. I still find myself teaching a lot more than song-writing these day. Fact is, however, I probably teach, preach and train more as a songwriter than I song-write as a teacher, preacher or trainer. I would call music my core instigator from which everything else flows. I mean when I’m cranking 15-20 hours worth of lectures there is just a natural rhythm and stomp that forms. I can’t help it. So I end up treating my teaching role more as a song… Which I think helps content land in interesting ways.
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